Poland targets Brics in export drive

By bne IntelliNews April 11, 2012

Tim Gosling in Prague -

The Polish government is launching a PLN250m (€60m) marketing drive over the next three years in a bid to boost the country's exports, with giant emerging markets such as Russia and China in the spotlight. Germany, which drives a huge chunk of the Central European economy through export demand, is another top target.

Warsaw will invest the funds in promoting 15 export sectors, reports Polskie Radio. Among those that stand to benefit from the drive are manufacturers of industrial, military and medical equipment, as well as amber jewellery, leatherwear, textiles and food-processing companies.

The programme follows a speech by Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski in late March in which he emphasized that "economic diplomacy" will be central to Poland's foreign policy during the remainder of the current government's term.

The Polish economy is amongst the most robust in the EU thanks to its healthy domestic demand, thus reducing its reliance on export demand out of the likes of Germany. Whilst exports constitute around 50% or so of Polish GDP, the likes of next-door neighbours the Czech Republic and Slovakia rely on overseas sales for around 80% of their economic activity. However, that has also seen Poland maintain a large trade deficit in recent years, although it has been narrowing somewhat. In 2011, the imbalance came in at €14.7bn, or 3.9% of GDP.

That suggests there should be room for the country to ship more exports. Poland recorded growth of 4.2% of GDP in 2011, despite a slight slowdown in domestic consumption. However, with the debt crisis in the Eurozone likely to help pull economic expansion back to 2% or so in 2012, Warsaw is looking to expand its exports both into the EU and to relatively ravenous markets such as Russia and China.

In particular, Poland will punt its machine builders - and producers of mining equipment in particular - to China, Russia and Kazakhstan. Those economies have huge natural resources to dig out of the ground, but struggle to produce the up-to-date machinery needed to remain competitive on global markets. They also rely heavily on imports of advanced equipment for many of the other developments their growing economies are helping to build, for instance in healthcare.

Meanwhile, cost advantage will lead Poland's offers in developed markets. The promotion of Polish medical services will head to the US, Sweden and Denmark, with the estimated value of Poland's medical tourism market coming in at approximately PLN800m in 2011. Polish yacht-manufacturers will benefit most from being promoted in Italy and Spain, the government strategy says.

Meanwhile, the auto sector - a leading edge in the development of all the CE economies over the last decade - is starting to show the strain of the problems in euro land in Poland. Vehicle production fell 26% year on year in March in anticipation of weaker demand. The sector accounts for around 7% of Polish industrial output, with 90% of the cars it produces heading for export.

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